Alabama COVID-19 Hospitalizations at pandemic low | Alabama News

BIRMINGHAM, Ala. (AP) – Fewer people are being treated for COVID-19 in Alabama hospitals than at any time since the pandemic began in March 2020, but experts say the rise of a new version of the combined coronavirus with less safety precautions could mean the decline is only temporary.

As of Friday, just 90 people statewide were hospitalized with the coronavirus, one less than the tally at the very start of the pandemic, statistics show. That was far less than the peaks of around 3,000 patients who were being treated at one time when the outbreak was at its worst.

Dr. Michael Saag, an infectious disease expert at the University of Alabama at Birmingham, said the statewide trend matches what he’s seeing at the hospital there. While the rise of a new omicron variant called BA-2 could lead to more hospitalizations, he said, it could be that so many people have already been infected in the state that the new version won’t make much difference.

“Time will tell,” he said.

Alabama Hospital Association chief Dr. Donald Williamson said he expects to see an increase in COVID-19 due to the new variant and the fact that so few people are wearing face masks and taking other precautions, but it’s impossible to determine how big the hike might be.

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More than 19,200 people have died from COVID-19 in Alabama, the third-highest death rate in the nation at nearly 395 deaths per 100,000 population, according to researchers at Johns Hopkins University. As the rolling average number of new daily cases rose 33% over the past two weeks, the state released a new batch of older test results that may have affected the statistics.

While it’s reasonable to relax mask requirements given the overall improvement, Saag said, those most at risk of illness will likely continue to wear them.

“For the rest of the population, we can begin to return to some semblance of ‘normal,’ with the caveat that public health officials will continue to monitor case numbers,” he said in a statement. E-mail. “If a new spike in cases, and in particular hospitalizations, were to occur, we should reinstate masking recommendations.”

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